Pearl ePro Live
By Dendy Jarrett |
Pearl ePro Live
Both Worlds = Pleasant Surprises
My first foray into the use of electronic drums came in the early 1980s when I was touring with a major act. I was “forced” to use an electronic kit in the latter part of the tour in order to cut down on stage volume. Perhaps my skepticism stems from that experience, but in the early days of electronic drums, the technology was far from perfect. I have often referred to playing electronic drums as “taking a warm shower in a raincoat.”
Recently, I was forced to swallow this pill and drive an electronic kit at the church where I am in rotation as a drummer. We have used acoustic drums for years, but sound issues, and bleeding had pushed us to the point that we found it necessary to dial in electric drums.
I was looking forward to this like an annual physical.
(Caveat emptor - our church plays relatively loud music in the genre of Mavis Staples, Pink Floyd’s “Time”, Love Train by the O’Jays, Delbert McClenton … that sort of thing — not your typical low volume stuff.)
For a short while we used the typical 8” round rubber pad type set but then discovered the Pearl ePro Live.
What sets the Pearl ePro Live apart from other kits? Well, for starters, they are real wooden drum shells. Not only can they be electric but you can also put regular heads on them and play them as regular acoustic drums. That alone makes this a perfect mix in my book, but wait … it uses real drum heads as well. (Well, for the most part- see description below.)
When the kit arrives, it is in 4 boxes:
1) All of the shells
2) The rack and hardware
4) TruTrack Heads, Module and Cables.
It is extremely well packaged with great instructions. Even better, Pearl has videos online (see resources below) that walk you through the set up in layman terms and Pearl’s Gene Okamoto is fantastic on camera at making you feel like “you can do this.” Pearl excels at their instructions in video form. At no time did the technology feel “overwhelming” to me. Having this look like and feel like real drums was a game changer.
SHELLS: The shells are beautiful poplar and are 6-ply. Those that are a wood grain finish are exceptionally beautiful. All of the finishes are beautiful, for that matter.
Shells included are the following:
• 20 x 12" kick
• 10" x 6-1/2", 12" x 7", and 14" x 8" rack toms
• 14" x 4-1/2" snare
I have seen video footage in which two of these are “married” to include double bass, two of each of the toms mounted in tandem to produce a nine-piece kit. It is quite a treat to watch Dennis Chambers work out on one of these!
Five finishes are available:
• Quilted Maple Fade
• Red Glass
• Diamond Glitter
• Vintage Orange Glass
• Vintage Green Glass
For our needs, we went with the Diamond Glitter. On stage and under lights, it just worked for us.
RACK AND HARDWARE:
I’m not much of a “rack guy” either, so I was approaching this with some skepticism. This rack, however, really works well with this kit.
It isn’t cumbersome or flimsy in any way. I will point out that we set it up and do not move it often, so I cannot give feedback about setting this up at multiple gigs. The supplied rack is a modified version of Pearl’s Icon Rack. The rest of the hardware is reliable Pearl hardware and covered under their lifetime warranty. The set up of the hardware was straightforward; but, as previously mentioned, the video presentation takes away any guesswork.
The cymbals are offered in real brass cymbals or black a black rubber variation.
What was included in our kit:
• 12" EPC2 crash
• 3-zone EPC2 14" ride
• Set of EPC2 12" hi-hats
The cymbal sounds included with this kit are truly stunning. And the variations are seemingly endless. The response and sensitivity is equally impressive. If there were any drawbacks to this kit, the cymbals would be where I found my personal limitations. I like the brass cymbals better, but, because of the electronic connectors and muting, they had a plastic-like “feel” to them. They are we better than playing on 8” rubber disks by a mile, but wanted to point out my own personal perspective. The other thing that just takes a few sessions of playing is that the hi-hats are fixed. They have a foot pedal that gives you the sound of open and closed hats, but they themselves do not move. You may miss some of the subtle nuances of playing “real” hi-hats. What was positive was the way these respond to your playing. If you hit the bell, you get bell. If you roll with dynamics, you get complete dynamic range. And if you choke them … they choke! The technology is stellar.
The tru-trac drumheads are “real” drum heads but slightly different from your normal drumhead. They have a raised or elevated part of the head that lies inside the counter hoop. This is what sets them apart from a regular drum head on the snare and tom toms. The bass drum, however, comes with a module that bolts to the drum head (floating and presented to the beater through a precut hole in the regular bass drum drumhead).
Playing on these heads was really no different from playing on regular heads when it comes to response.
Due to my playing style, the raised element that rises ever so slightly above the counter hoop, kept me from hitting in my normal manner. I come from a drum corps background, so I tend to hit with a “gock” or rim shot approach to playing. I had to adjust my playing to compensate for this head element. Again, just a personal perspective and to the average player may not even be present.
The heads have a nice coated texture and could even be used with brushes (and you can dial in a brush kit). Where these heads excel is sensitivity. The dynamic range is off the chain. With a good monitor system, your brain will fool you into believing you are playing the drums and the sounds are coming out of the real drum shells. They offered a pianissimo all the way to a full-bore metal fortissimo.
R.E.D. BOX: (the module)
No, not the place you pick up and drop off DVD’s at your local convenient store. Rather, this is the control module for this drum set.
R.E.D. stands for Real Electronic Drums (clever) and of course … it’s red.
The RedBox features 4 total outputs- 2 left and right, and 2 auxillary. There is also a MIDI in and out which also doubles as a MIDI interface. Additionally there is a USB in and out. (the USB is not powered) The Module contains 128 Megabytes of RAM and features 1,000 high definition sounds plus 100 high definition kits and allows for 100 user programmable kits.
Pearl also has a dedicated website for redbox owners that allow you to keep track of changes and updates. They also have a partnership with Toontrack, Zildjian and others that allow you to play “virtual” drums and cymbals from their sites. It is a very well thought-out presentation.
The cables are so straight-forward to understand. Everything is color coded and labeled so there is no guesswork involved. You simply match up the correct cable with the labeled drum and then the other end to the corresponding input to the redbox. Once everything is connected, you are supplied Velcro ties to neatly “hide” the cables from view. It makes for a very clean look. All of the electronic anxiety was removed with this kit.
DAILING IT IN
Dialing the kit in (so to speak) wasn’t completely without some challenges. You have to adjust the sensitivity so you don’t get mis-triggering and bleeding from drum to drum. That part was easy, so it seemed. We were having issues with hitting the drum and the drum not sounding. It turns out we had a floor wedge that was partially under the floor tom. During performance, certain frequency would cause the snare channel to open and stay open, so when we would hit the snare, there would be no triggered sound. Adjusting the position/location of the wedge and adjusting the sensitivity on the snare cleared the problem — with the help of Pearl’s fantastic and patient support team who helped us determine the specific problem.
Of the choices in this crowded market place, this kit is at the top of the list for me.
It strikes a happy balance for me. There are times when I forget I am playing electronic drums. As with any electronic kit, you have to dial them in so that they meet your playing style, but this kit makes that process so easy. Do I still prefer to play on acoustic drums — yes, but in a situation where electronic drums are necessary or preferred, these drums took away the pain because I found balance and pleasant surprises where both worlds of the Pearl ePro Live intersects.
Pearl ePro Demo #1:
Example of Great Self Help Videos Pearl offers on this ePro Live:
ePro Live as Acoustic Only:
TO DISCUSS DRUMS & PERCUSSION:
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.